Who do you say that I am (2)

by Andrea Elizabeth

After an interesting tour in gnosticism, on page 65 of God, History and Dialectic by Dr. Joseph Farrell, we get back to the heresy of subordinationism of the Son to the Father. Athenagoras of Athens combats the Gnostic’s dualism, but leaves Christ open to being an energy of the Father instead of a person in that he says Christ dwelt in the Father’s mind, being called Logos, or Reason, before He became the firstborn of creation, which made Him a creature. Dr. Farrell then criticizes St. Justin Martyr’s philosophy of not doing  much different, though unbeknowingly. Here is his summary of St. Justin’s thought:

(1) God is absolutely unoriginate (aggenhtoV);149
(2) He is preeminently Father, therefore, because He is the Creator of
(3) Thus, by implication, the Word, as Son, is originate, as is Creation,
and therefore the Son is a creature, and not divine;
(4) God the Father is thus utterly transcendant,151
(5) The Logos is an Emanation(proodoV) of the Father to the Word,
bridging the gap between the Father’s utter transcendence and the
world: “Just as we see happening in the case of a free [fire?], which is not
lessened when it has been kindled but remains the same, and that
which has been kindled by it likewise appears to exist by itself, not
diminishing that from which it was kindled.”152

The last point again focuses the dilemma, for on the one hand, the
illustration of the fire clearly is to be understood as an illustration of the full
deity of the Logos; on the other hand, Utter Transcendence itself would
seem to be the distinguishing attribute of deity in Justin’s system, and
therefore, the Logos, as imanating from that Transcendence, would seem
to be less than divine. (p. 68)

First I note that #3, the most serious “implicat”ed charge, is unfootnoted, and not a necessary one, imo, by what he says in his commentary underneath and the additional quote. If the Father is like a fire and transcendent, then the Son’s fire-ness can also be transcendent and not less than divine. At least he says, “seems to”. I don’t think St. Justin would be a Saint if the Church Fathers thought he seemed to say that. Next Dr. Farrell asks some interesting questions.

(1) If the Divine Logos which inspires philosophy and theology is one
and the same Logos, does this justify Christians making use of
whatever individual fragments or particular truths philosophy may
possess, i.e is the fragment true in and of itself, or only in the
context of the fullness and completeness of the Logos, which is
what St. Justin seems to imply?
(2) On the other hand, if one rejects St. Justin’s conception of the
Logos, then is not one denying the unity and consistency of truth,
and therefore, does not one deny the whole basis of Christian
theology, that which we encountered from its beginning, i.e., that
there is a relationship between what God does in Creation and
what He does in Redemption, for it is on account of the former that
He is recognized for Who He is in the latter;
(3) But if Christ is “the Logos in everyman”, what exactly distinguishes
the Logos in Christ from the Logos in everyman? It would appear
that Justin is implying that the distinction is not “qualitative” but
merely quantitative”, that there is something called “Logos” which
Christ has more of than anybody else. (p. 69, 70)

Before #1, Dr. Farrell quoted St. Justin as saying that the ancient Greeks “borrowed from the Old Testament”, so to me that puts that worry to rest, what they got right, they got from revelation, not that revelation is incompatible with reason. Perhaps he is setting up a false dialectic between humanity and deity. Humanity is in God’s image, but God is above being, and therefore His reason is above, not “more” than, ours, and not opposed to it. Which reminds me that I need to get back into St. Dionysius. Regarding #2, in my mind this speaks to my delimma with St. Maximus’ explanation of Recapitulation being all-encompassing whether one is an orthodox Christian or not. He makes the distinction between ever-living well, and ever-living ill in Christ’s redemptive work in immortalizing man, but living well has to do with acting in natural human fashion, of which the virtues are a part, and not so much about being baptized. Even so, he also talks glowingly about baptism, so it is obviously not unnecessary or of no effect. I’m a maximalist, so I wouldn’t risk not living right nor not being in the right Church, Christ’s Body.